During the last several months I had been spending a lot of time in my dark place.
Every day and every time I’d walk by our fridge and see the photo taken of Petey in Vegas on Wedding Eve ’09 (the photo of him that everybody loves, because he looks so joyful and carefree and like he had a world full of fun and promise and discovery laid out before him), I was haunted by his last days; what they must have been like for him, and how he went out.
It was getting harder to remember things about him that came before February ’14. I had twenty two years of familiarity to draw from, yet I was programmed to sum up this beautiful man’s life based almost entirely upon his final four days: an unfair and tragic legacy, yet despite my constant attempts I just couldn’t shake this reflexive nose dive into oblivion.
This photo triggered grief, regret, pain, deep sadness and frustration — born out of love, but still raw and intensely depressing. A copy of this same photo sat in a hiding place in my car for over a year because I had to take it down from the clip on my sun visor. My husband had affectionately put it there as a way to keep his brother close, but it shattered my insides to see him there daily while repeatedly transporting the entirety of my brain back to February 22 – February 25, 2014.
Then two weeks ago I had a dream.
I was running water in a sink. My hands were wet and I was intent on washing something. I saw a figure behind my left shoulder and turned.
It took a second for my brain to register who it was. Petey looked just like he did in ’09, just like he did in that cursed picture.
Shocked to see him, I traversed the four feet that separated us and reached out to touch his arm, not sure if my fingertips would meet warm flesh or ghostly ectoplasm. Solid and alive! I threw my arms around his neck.
“We’ve missed you so much!” I stated, still clinging tightly, knowing he wouldn’t be there with me for long.
I wish I could remember his reply, but it’s enough to know that it was kind and inconsequential.
“Please come back and visit again, OK?” I pulled back slightly from his all-engulfing embrace and looked him in the eyes; eyes full of the life I feared I had forgotten.
Then I woke up, struck by the realness of it all. I felt joy for the first time in I don’t know how long. He was still with me.
The other day I fished Petey’s photo out of my driver’s side door and fastened it back up on the visor.
I am no longer stuck in that house in Fallon, Nevada, watching helplessly as his heart is ripped from his chest, and bullet meets cylinder, then barrel, then bone.
I still miss him terribly, but things have shifted.
Now I know I don’t have to be afraid anymore.